Melissa Bailey

Bailey 

FLORENCE — A group of city officials decided Monday afternoon that short-term rentals zoned R1 and R2, that were recently declared in violation of the city ordinance, may continue operating until a compromise can be reached.

City Council members Kaytrina Simmons, Andy Betterton and Dick Jordan, along with Mayor Steve Holt, Florence Planning Director Melissa Bailey, and Florence Building Official/Zoning Administrator Gary Williamson met to discuss the issue that affects 27 properties, mostly operating under Airbnb.

Building officials recently sent letters to those rental home owners, apprising them of the zoning violation as transient short-term rentals and requesting they cease operation.

Transient short-term rental properties are not considered single-family dwellings as the owners rent out their facilities by the night or for other temporary time periods. 

The exception to the ordinance is a bed and breakfast located within a historical district that has been granted special exception from the city's board of zoning adjustment.

During Monday's meeting, city officials agreed they are willing to consider compromise solutions. They scheduled a 5:30 p.m. meeting Thursday at the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism/Visitor Center to discuss options for potential special permits or licensing.

Until a decision is made, city officials say the short-term rentals can operate as they have been.

"We have to look at all the information and make an informed decision," Bailey said. "There are certainly valid arguments on both sides of the issue, but it involves all city services. It isn't simple, and it certainly isn't a quick process in regards to (amending) ordinances or issuing special permits, exemptions or licensing."

Holt said it appears the issue is a matter of modifying codes with some standards for short-term rentals outside the historical district.

Betterton said he wants to create a level playing field. "This meeting today is the first conversation we've had about this," he said.

The group agreed to let the planning commission move forward in an effort to address the issue.

"We'll work with what we have and come up with a reasonable solution with the planning commission," Williamson said.

No new short-term rentals will be approved while the issue is being addressed.

Simmons said it's important to listen to the owners and their ideas. "They've been providing a service and have done so in a positive light, so we need to work with these individuals."

Jordan, the City Council president, said his job first and foremost is to protect the integrity of city neighborhoods.

"Balance is needed, and we have to determine how to best achieve that," he said. 

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